A prospective intervention to improve happiness and reduce burnout in oncologists
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BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of data about effective interventions to improve happiness and reduce burnout in oncologists. Benjamin Franklin developed a 13-week program of "necessary activities" or "virtues" (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility) to follow, in his attempt at self-improvement. In this pilot study, we explored whether using a modified version of this was associated with any discernable impact on physician happiness, burnout, or compliance with each of the virtues. METHODS: Self-reported happiness (Oxford happiness scores) and burnout (Abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory) were completed at baseline (pre-study), week 13, and 1 month after completion of the program. Each day during the 13-week program, oncologists were emailed a list of virtues to focus on and scored how they felt they were complying with them. The oncologist's spouses also assessed how they felt the oncologist was complying with the virtues. RESULTS: Thirteen physicians completed the baseline scores, 11 completed Maslach/Oxford scores at the end of the study, and 8 the 1-month post-study assessment. No significant improvements in happiness and burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, personal accomplishment) scores were observed. Statistically significant changes in self-rated virtue scores were observed for temperance (p = 0.046), order (p = 0.049), and resolution (p = 0.014). Additionally, although not reaching statistical significance, 11 of 13 virtues (excepting sincerity and chastity) assessed by spouses indicated a positive change over time. CONCLUSION: In this hypothesis generating study, daily reflection on personal virtues was not associated with any statistically significant change in happiness or burnout scores. Alternative strategies should be considered.
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